airpods

Went to Sam’s to get my haircut for the trip. Summertime so he tends to cut it rather short, so it’s easy to manage.

airpods

Did a few things beforehand, bought gifts and miscellaneous stuff to take with me. Oh, and airpods.

I haven’t listened to music for a long time, but lately I wish I had earphones to listen to sound on eithe the mbp or iphone. Sometimes videos, sometimes when playing a game. The criteria are wireless and that they fit in my ears. Conventional earbuds don’t fit, I can’t stuff them in or they fall out. The airpods seem to stay in place.

Are they the best choice? Probably not, definitely not in terms of price. But that’s always been the case with apple products. They connect up with the iphone immediately with zero issue, and I can make some customisations. Some reviewers ding the sound quality, but I’m not enough of an audiophile to tell the difference.

I see enough people with them that the odd design doesn’t look stupid to me anymore. In time, people will just get used to it. We got used to the equally bluetooth earpiece, didn’t we?

I used them to play pubgm and there is a big difference; I can hear shots more clearly and the direction they come from. The biggest advantage for me is how easily i can use them. Bluetooth is always off but as soon as I turn it on in either my iphone or the mba, pop one or both airpods in my ear, they’re connected. It’s been so long since we heard

it just works

that I’m so happy to have an apple product that does just that.

iphone setup and apps

homescreen01old

I’ve had the same wallpaper since my first iphone. The homescreen setup is by and large similar, with more organisation when folders were first introduced. Like most people, I download and keep too many apps on the phone in case I want to use them. So what does my iphone homescreen really say about me? It’s organised clutter and full of folders. Notifications are only enabled on phone and text, and I zero out all notifications. I don’t use colour in any meaningful way.

Time for a change. What I want to achieve, is having a homescreen that is comfortable, set up for easy access, and uncluttered.

wallpaper

The fiery apple wallpaper looked cool 10 years ago, and although it still looks good it’s way past time to switch to a new one. Eventually I want to have a plain white one perhaps with subtle patterns. For now I changed to one with sunset because I love the colours. The caption says watsons bay, so I must have taken it in Australia although I can’t remember it and the date doesn’t coincide with me being in sydney. May be I scanned it from an older pic? That’s the problem with having 33,000 pics, it’s impossible to remember them all.

23nightsky.jpg

I’m also saving all my various wallpapers in one place for easy access.

setup

After seeing all the cool homescreens both on the twitter thread and at r/iOSsetups, I really wanted to emulate the way users implemented minimalistic homescreens. I also took to heart this article about simplifying our smartphones.

I set aside some time for this mini-project. First, I deleted tons of apps: a) obsolete ones that aren’t compatible with the current ios, but I hadn’t realised because the apps had been on the phone for years; b) apps i had never used; c) apps I haven’t used in months. This enabled me to consolidate several folders too: I combined all text, messengering and email apps; I shuffled between utilities, info and productivity; I reduced all games to one folder.

The next tip is to identify the apps I use most. I had a long list of 24 core apps, which I whittled down to 15, including 4 of the most commonly used that I keep on the dock. I love the setups where the apps are at the bottom of the screen so I googled for instructions. The method of achieving this effect is to create transparent (or as they describe, invisible) icons. Of course there’s an app for that, makeovr. They need a screenshot of the blank page with wallpaper, then it’s a matter of patiently creating individual icons to match the spot it needs to go to. It takes advantage of safari’s copy to homescreen functionality. In this example, I selected icon row 1 column 1:
homescreen02makeovr

I planned out where I wanted the core apps, then created the appropriate transparent icon and moved it in place. Needs a little patience because each icon has to be created and moved. I like the result, although I’d like to get rid of more homescreen apps:
homescreen03iphone01

I’m thinking eventually I may move snapseed to the second page and may be even evernote (or its potential replacement, bear–see below). If and when I get a password manager, I’ll have to find a place for it too. The second page looks more like a conventional iphone page:
homescreen04iphone02

I did the same for the second phone:
homescreen05iphone5c

And for the ipad, I used iempty, similar to makeovr but with a clunkier interface:
homescreen06ipad

Since the second phone and ipad are used for a narrower band of tasks, the number of core apps is very few.

apps

The exercise of looking at other people’s apps was both fruitful and not. Fruitful because there are some great apps and not because a lot of these great apps are paid.

Low hanging fruit first, free apps. Added spark, discord, mega, snapseed straightaway. I have snapseed already and it does have better UI and functionality than lightroom. I tested outlook vs spark and spark’s UI won hands down. I also downloaded bear on both iphone and mac and still researching it. A lot of people have moved from evernote and apple notes to bear and report good experiences. I’m not a power EN user, and mainly use it for text notes so its simplicity and speed will benefit me. As ” title=”verge”>the verge says:

Bear plays the sleek TextEdit to Evernote’s monstrous Microsoft Word

There’s a simple migration process and the app has a lot of positives like markdown support and tags. The problem for me is, I prefer folders over tags and bear doesn’t organise via folders. This is potential deal-breaker for me. The second one is that I’ll need a $15 annual subscription to enable syncing across devices, compared with EN which allows syncing across 2 devices for the free version. Two is what I need: mac and iphone. I may give it a try for travel research next trip.

Back to apps. There are a few paid apps I really want. I ended up buying one only, but I’m keeping tabs on the others. The paid app I got is carrot, and yes I paid $4.99 for a weather app, when there are tons available for free. I’ve known for a long time that dark sky is the best weather app and kind of holding out waiting. Carrot uses dark sky and has so much more, the funniest being its snarky comments and quests for secret locations. While I may get tired of snark and quests, there’s no question that its core functionality, showing me upcoming weather, is fantastic. It’s simply a pleasure to look at the page with hourly predictions.

I’m also toying with either IA writer or byword as a text editor for iphone and ipad, leaning more towards byword. I write all website posts in textedit then copy paste to wordpress, which is fine because it’s distraction free and has only the basic features. Byword is equally clean-looking and goes a little beyond by supporting markdown and publishes directly to wordpress. For writing writing, of course I’ll stick with scrivener. I’m not sure as yet I want to shell out $5.99 just because I want a direct publishing option.

One thing I’ve noticed, that I’m very disappointed in, is apps in the mac app store are not only more expensive than for iphone/ipad, the app can’t be shared. This means if I want byword for example, I have to pay $11.99 for the mac version and $5.99 for iphone/ipad. The argument is mac apps are inherently different because iOS is not the same as macOS. That said, there are rumours that apple is planning to combine both stores. In the meantime, I probably will stay with mostly free or included apps.

iphone homescreens

via daring fireball, Michael Lopp, an engineer at Slack, wrote an article about apps on his iphone and how he carefully curates apps on the homescreen, then he asked people to share their homescreen on twitter. There are some really interesting designs and use philosophies. Here are the ones I like out of the submitted screenshots.

Extreme minimalist, with the majority of apps in one folder in the dock, from @grinder:
iphonescreen01bulb

Another minimalist, with a beautiful wallpaper and other apps in one single folder on the second page, from @michamore:
iphonescreen02white

Beautifully arranged according to colours, from @daniel_whiting:
iphonescreen03colours

Another artistic one, from @lyle:
iphonescreen04splash

Black, from @jasonbaum:
iphonescreen05black

I notice a number of minimalist screens, with only a few apps that are presumably the most heavily used, that have probably resulted from reading this post. Someone had all apps in alphabetical folders. Someone else had a picture of their dog and just one app.

The twitter thread then became a contest of the largest number of unread email, as theads like this are wont to become. I identified with the comment by someone who had none because notifications are all off except messaging apps.

Many people have the same set of apps–google maps/waze, instagram/snapchat/twitter, pocket/instapaper, spotify, overcast, strava/fitbit. Hardly anyone has facebook although one person has a folder called time wasters with the usual social media apps. I’m taking notes on apps I don’t have that seem worth downloading:

  • 1password: I’m still on the fence about password managers, seeing the number of people with it is making me think more
  • bear: an evernote replacement. I’m not an EN power user but I use it a lot especially for travel research. I’ll have to look into bear
  • carrot: weather app with funny comments
  • discord: because that’s likely where it’ll be, when fb gets overwhelmed by advertisers and old people
  • fantastical: a calendar app that looks much more feature-rich than the native calendar app or even google calendar
  • iA writer: clean, clutter-free writing app
  • mega: ostensibly a dropbox alternative, but with its history of being created by Kim Dotcom…I’m not giving away secrets
  • reeder: rss reader, can be used with feedly
  • snapseed: I think I may actually have it, should install it

new mbp

So, this arrived:

mbp2018box

I was looking into getting a new computer around christmas but lost my nerve and saw the available units disappear in front of my eyes. I had a gut feeling that 01-March means a refresh and I was right. What am I talking about? A refurbished machine of course. There are lots of advantages of getting a refurbished mac, because it comes with a new casing, new serial number, possibly new battery, and is inspected and covered under warranty just like a new machine. All at an approx 15% discount.

The only con is, I can’t think of one. The model I chose was a June 2017 13″ mbp with 16GB RAM and 512GB HD. There was one with 1TB HD but significantly more expensive. Do I need that much hard disk space when I can plug in an external HD anytime? Absolutely not.

The only concession I made is that this is a Core i5 machine, not i7. I suppose I can wait another 3 months to see if they have an i7 16GB RAM 512GB HD but why wait. For what I’ll be using it, the bump in processor speed isn’t significant. Plus, I’ve been using my trusty 2010 mba with 4GB RAM and I manage both photoshop and imovies on it, albeit not at the same time. The new mbp will be fine.

The current batch of mb, mba and mbp isn’t perfect, and definitely has some flaws that made me think very hard and long before committing. This is the other reason I didn’t get the top of the line model. Like what businessinsider said, I may not want to future-proof this purchase so much because a few years down the line, my perfect mbp or whatever model they have then will be introduced, and I want to have no guilt or remorse when I upgrade.

mbp2018mba

Anyway, the new mbp arrived just after lunch and I’ve been transferring everything from the mba to it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to buy a usb-usbc cable so the transfer went over wifi at the lightning-fast speed of 5MB/s. It’s all good, because everything transferred, including passwords, settings and even the trash.

What I like: much faster, and since I’m not using an obsolete machine I can use things like the dropbox folder, whatsapp desktop, airdrop and see flash content on, gasp, firefox quantum. The keys have a good snap, and I’ve missed the keyboard backlight. I’m meh on the touchbar, so far all I’ve used it for is to adjust brightness and volume.

What I don’t like: only usb-c ports so I’ll be forced to buy adapters. I’m very disappointed at apple for this. At the corner of my desk I have 2 iphones and an ipad charging, and I can’t plug any of them to the mbp out of the box. What happened to the “It Just Works” mantra that we grew up with?

when iphone breaks

iphone6split

First thing we did when we got to Bangkok airport on our trip, after getting our luggage and clearing customs, was to switch to a local sim card. When I took my iphone out of the case, I discovered that the screen had separated from the casing and was slightly warped. I hadn’t noticed it before, the sturdy case held it together, so I didn’t know whether it was recent or how long it’d been like that. The phone was working perfectly fine, so I kept on using it. Car said it’s probably a swollen battery and I should be careful.

Genius Bar is booked a week in advance so yesterday was the first chance I was able to get an appointment after coming back. Even with a reservation, there was a 30min wait.

Yep, the battery is swollen. But the remedy isn’t part of the $29 iphone battery replacement program. It’ll have to come under regular repairs. And I never bought applecare.

I thought they’d replace the swollen battery with a new one. Nope.

I thought they’d replace the motherboard. Nope.

They told me I’m getting a new iphone. Yep, brand new. Same model, same specs, but not iphone X (I wish).

Originally she said it’d be $79, but when I came to pay the system kept coming up with $29. She went and asked her manager who said okay to $29. I wonder if their POS system is too geared towards the battery replacement program that it forced my case into it too. Does it mean I can’t replace the battery this year? I guess I did get a new battery, only it came with a new phone attached to it.

Restore from icloud took overnight since it had to upgrade to the latest ios and download all the apps again; fortunately I didn’t have to redo any settings. I had to log into everything again, of course. Now I’m thinking about whether to get a password manager.

Two things didn’t completely restore: whatsapp and camera roll. I think I turned off automatic backup for whatsapp and forgot to do a backup before I went to the apple store. The most recent backup it could find was 2015 so I lost a lot of texts and a number of groups. With some fiddling around I added myself back in groups I own, and my friends added me back to our various groups. Restoring camera roll was just tedious, I have it backed up in dropbox but I had to save the pics one at a time, there didn’t seem to be a bulk download option. It was a good opportunity to sort and delete pics I no longer want in the camera roll so time well spent.

Next time I’m out and about, I need to get a new screen protector and may be a spare sturdy case. Hopefully this phone will last a few more years, and this episode takes care of the low-level hanking after iphone X that’s been floating around in the background.

random tech news

A few tech related stuff spotted recently.

olddisks

This post about old floppy disks from sixcolors wasn’t as interesting as I thought initially. Jason Snell talks about all the various floppy disks he’d had over the years, from the 5.25″ floppies he used in his Apple IIe (talk about an early adoptor!) and how he managed to image these disks and somehow get the data off them, albeit as txt files. There’s a lot of words that seem to simply go over my head, for instance when he started talking about DOS3.3, I was confused, wasn’t he using an Apple II? Anyway, the good news is he recovered files as well as records of old BBS entries. The upshot:

It turns out the journey, through old computers and transfer cables and disk images, was the true reward. Nobody needs to see the term papers they wrote in high school 30 years after the fact.

The reason this post caught my eye was the pic of all those old floppy disks. I threw out all my disks last time I moved, and now only have some cd-roms, which will go in the bin next time I have a clearout. I saw an old zip drive plus some zip disks on mm’s bookshelf one time, mainly because she hasn’t had multiple moves and she said she doesn’t even remember what they are. Strange to see them still on sale, even though they’ve evolved to being connected via usb nowadays. Hmm, I still have firewire cables.


A handy listing of keyboard shortcuts, ranked by importance. Although I don’t necessarily agree with the ranking. I don’t use cmd-z or emd-y that much, but cmd-x, -c, and -v are definitely essential. I can’t remember the last time I used the Edit menu for copy paste. I’ve been using cmd-tab a lot more, although when I first starting using it lots I would accidentally hit cmd-q, which is NOT GOOD.

Others like cmd-o for open, cmd-n for new, cmd-s for save and cmd-t for new tab are good ones to remember. One that isn’t on the list that I use all day is cmd-w to close current tab. I’m not the type of user who has dozens of tabs open, probably 4-5 at most. A new one I learned is cmd-h to hide the current window which is so much cleaner than minimising.

The two keyboard shortcuts for screenshot is great too: cmd-shift-3 for whole screen and cmd-shift-4 to select the area to screenshot.

Another one they don’t list that is extremely important to excel users is cmd-shift-arrow to select the whole column or row. Imagine having a spreadsheet of 500 rows of data and wanting to select it all, dragging the cursor all the way is not effective.


And finally, at long last apple is revamping the ibooks app, and it’ll simply be called books. There’s been no update for ages and ages, new features apparently:

include a simpler interface that better highlights books currently being read and a redesigned digital book store

plus a tab for audiobooks.

ebooksales

Good news, and provides some competition for kindle. eBook sales through amazon has gone from 74% market share in 2015 to 83% in 2017. Apple will really need to up their game though, because there’s a lot to catch up both in terms of competing against kindle readers and the selection in the app store. I sometimes check out books in the itunes store and the selection is pretty dismal. It shouldn’t be hard for them to get more ebooks, since their focus is selling iphones and ipads rather than content so they can well afford to have ebooks selling at lower prices than at amazon.

I think I’m the rare reader who’s resisted buying kindle books and stubbornly keeping to epub all these years. I hope the updated app is better and they don’t over-engineer it. My wishlist is pretty simple, I’d like to have folders to organise my ebooks rather than just one flat library. And the ability to sort books in a series in the right order will be awesome.

lisa os

oslisa

Something to look forward to in 2018. The Computer History Museum will be releasing the source code of the legendary Lisa operating system next year, free of charge, for all the play with and sigh nostalgically at the black & white windows that are the precursor to Mac OS.

The story is that in 1979 Steve Jobs visited the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center to check out mouse-driven graphical interfaces. Xerox didn’t know what to do with the technology and allowed Apple engineers to play with it for three days, and the Lisa OS was created based on what they learned at Xerox. Lisa, named after Jobs’ daughter, was very expensive and wasn’t a success, selling only about 100,000 units. Jobs was removed from the Lisa team and placed in the Macintosh team and, well, the rest is history. I’m typing this post on a computer that can trace its tech origins to those three days at Xerox PARC.

Legend is that Bill Gates also visited Xerox PARC and from the visit grew Windows. Jobs accused Gates of stealing from Apple, to which Gates replied:

I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.

I think it’ll be fun to have old Lisa and Mac OS to play with. So many of the menu items and GUI are still relevant today.

which big tech to drop first

tech5

NYT asked which of the 5 tech giants would we drop.

If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

My choices are in a different order than a typical American, I suppose. Here’s my order, with explanations:

  1. amazon — I order from amazon once a year, when I go to the US. I’m not a prime member, I don’t read using a kindle, I have no intention of getting an echo and I don’t use any of the services owned by amazon like goodreads, audible, zappos. So it’s a no-brainer to drop amazon first
  2. microsoft — the NYT warns that dropping microsoft means no windows and I’m like, I don’t care. Not having ms office is a pain but there are alternatives. I skype with Carleen almost weekly, but we can switch to another service
  3. facebook — not because of facebook itself but because of whatsapp and, to a certain extent, instagram. Whatsapp is how almost everyone in my RL communicate with each other, so we’ll have to switch to something like line–and have to educate mum
  4. alphabet — obviously losing google, google maps and gmail is a big deal so I’ll try to keep google products as long as I can, the alternatives aren’t up to scratch
  5. apple — on my desk within easy reach: mba, ipad, 2 iphones. It’s not just the hardware, it’s ibooks, which is how I read

Poor yahoo, not in the cool 5 club. Which is a saviour in this exercise, because it means I still have yahoo mail and flickr.

macbook pro usb hub

hyperdrive

I haven’t bought my mba replacement yet. It’s still working and the frankly the reviews for the new mbp do not impress me.

But, if I had gotten the mbp or about to, I’d invest $69 for the hyperdrive, a fast usb hub with usb-c, usb 3.1, sd card and hdmi port. One hub instead of the bagful of dongles needed to convert to existing equipment.

It’s sad that the kickstarter raised $1.6 million. Not sad for the makers of the hyperdrive, just sad for mac users in general that it’s even needed. As petapixel said:

This is mind blowing when you really think about it.

I speak from the perspective of a long term apple user. When macs were expensive and compatible with nothing; before the windows version of itunes came out thus making the ipod mainstream. Increasingly, I’m feeling disillusioned about mac products. Seems like we’re an afterthought in amongst the plethora of iphones, ipads, watches and airpods that greet every customer in an apple store. I even seriously read the article that asks is it time to swap your mac for a windows laptop. I’ve owned a couple of windows laptops, but the last non-mac computer I’ve owned that was my primary machine ran DOS. So, it’s unlikely I’ll switch. I’ll just use my existing machine for as long as possible to maximise its value.

iphone 10th anniversary

iphone3gs

Ten years ago, 9 January 2007, Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone. To say it was revolutionary, that it would change the world, is not an exaggeration. Before that, I had a series of Nokias and I was super happy with them. I didn’t get the original iPhone when it came out because it was US and Europe only initially. I also had to wait till I had an address in Chicago before I finally managed to get my first one, the 3GS in 2009. Aside from that S model, my progression so far has been the even numbered versions: 4 when I moved to London and 6 when it got water damage and I had to get a new phone.

There’s a brilliant 10 year anniversary in pictures that gives a nice description of all the models. It’s also interesting to look back at what the original reactions were. Have to laugh at NPR:

It’s a cell phone, it’s a music player, it’s a camera, it’s a Web-enabled device, and much more. Ask yourself if you really need all that high-tech bling

Naysayers included Steve Ballmer at Microsoft (duh), my favourite Guardian and Techcrunch, with such a confident headline:

We Predict the iPhone Will Bomb

Others were more positive, taking a long view that even if this particular device failed, it would pave the way for a changed tech landscape. CNET:

this is about more than Apple. Even if it’s a flop–perhaps even more so if it’s a flop–the iPhone will change the way mobile devices are designed

And of course, it won Time’s 2007 invention of the year, because it took computing and platforms and design and usability to the next level:

computing doesn’t belong just in cyberspace, it needs to happen here, in the real world, where actual stuff happens

So, looking forward. I’m excited about the rumours that iphone 8 may be made from forged stainless steel. Drool.

iphone screen crack

bbiphone6cracked

Normal office day. Project almost finished so I told B I’ll be in next week and then off for the rest of the month.

Ran a couple of errands before lunch. On the way to the post office I tripped on one step, fell and my iphone fell face first on the pavement. It had no chance. Argh!! So many cracks! It was barely held together by the screen protector. Luckily it seemed to be working fine. Was able to get a same day appointment at the genius bar. It’ll cost an arm and a leg to replace the screen.

This is when I’m super glad I have 2 iphones. Swapped the sim card into the spare one and I’m good to go. Couldn’t get LINE connected so switched to Whatsapp. Strange that Whatsapp is linked to the phone and the spare number rather than my regular number. I didn’t want to lose the data so I told all 4 people I normally communicated with (mum, sis, gis, mm) to use the spare number.

Thing with the spare iphone is that the battery behaves strangely. I was at 80% battery when it buzzed once and the screen went blank. Had to plug in the external battery and the red low battery icon came up. After a few minutes it started up again and was back to 80% battery. It doesn’t matter. It’s a spare phone and I have an external battery.

Logged into pokemon go on the spare phone and went to the park where there was an omanyte nest. Got enough to evolve, a good end to a day that could have been horrible.

bbmm computer and dinner

Went with mm after work to the computer centre to get her mbp repaired. Her hard disk is almost dead and last time at the genius bar it was taken out of the body completely. So the aim was to a) get the HD into an ext casing and see if it still works; b) install a new HD into the mbp. Got quotes from a couple of places and went to the first one. The technician was very helpful and knowledgeable, we wandered around the mall for an hour whilst they did the repair. I bought a new screencover for the iphone, the old cover had cracked.

As usual, mm had a million questions but the technician was very patient. Almost 8pm when we left. I was pretty tired and hungry by then.

thaidinner20160922

Went to a nearby building and first looked at a korean restaurant then decided to go to the thai place one floor down. Had beer, chicken wings, grilled squid, whole grey mullet, cabbage greens and roti. The squid, greens and roti were good, the chicken wings and fish less so.

Walked to a nearby gym and got our golds. Didn’t even know there is a park at that location.

mbp recovery

macrecovery

Went to the apple store with mm, her mbp won’t startup. The genius booted it up using a recovery startup disk and it seems her hard disk is damaged. Ouch! To make matters worse: a) she doesn’t have a backup for her files and b) most of her files are not organised, she just dumps them on her desktop.

Luckily using the recovery startup we were able to access them. I’d bought an external HD for her in case we had to copy files. We had to do it folder by folder to avoid spending time copynig her huge movies and other unnecessary files. Still took a couple of hours at the genius bar.

The biggest problem was the damaged bits included her 2 biggest files: itunes library and iphotos. The genius told us the only solution was to remove the HD, put it in a casing and copy it to another machine. Then it’s a matter of replacing the HD.

At least there’s a plan of action. We decided to go away and think about it first. She has her lenovo to use for school work, that’ll be the focus for the next 2-3 weeks.

#1 upgrade macOS

snowleopardpatch

Task #1 of 101.1001 is to upgrade macOS at least once. When I set the challenge, I thought I’d follow the normal upgrade route to 10.7, 10.8 etc. We’re at 10.11 now.

I’m still running 10.6, because of old software and old hardware. I normally upgrade when I get a new mac, and credit to the little mba, it’s still running well after more than 5 years. I’m quite happy with status quo, making me one of around 5% of mac users still on 10.6.

In a way this is a slight cheat, but my challenge…my rules. Last week there was an upgrade to snow leopard, a small patch to ensure continual compatibility with the mac store. Not that I use the mac store, but I upgraded anyway.

This is all because I want to delay getting a new machine for as long as possible.

I May Need To Upgrade Soon

macbookproair

I bought the mba in 2010, just before I left Chicago. By the time I fully switched over, the previous mbp was 4 years old. So the mba is 5 years old and I use it nearly every day. The apps are getting long in the tooth now, people send me xlsx, docx, pptx and I have to use openoffice to convert before I can use my office 2003. I use photoshop cs2, and other old software. I’m still on snow leopard.

Recently I’ve noticed it to be struggling in some tasks. Firefox gobbles huge amount of memory and the fan goes crazy. If I have to temporarily reinstall flash for whatever reasons the fan goes supercrazy. Things came to a head over the weekend when I had to run a webex meeting. It’s another service, not webex, but similar. I simply could not get the meeting controls to work, it kept teling me I had to pick an application to open the controls, then it crashes. Digging through the help documentation, I found out that the minimum requirement is 10.7, although to use all functionalities I need 10.8 or newer.

So annoyed. I had to borrow mm’s mbp, albeit at 10.7 it’s only marginally newer. She was working in the uni library and wasn’t getting home till 8pm and I had to get home by 9pm. It was a rush, to meet up with her, test the mbp briefly and I had to get a taxi home. Expensive way of running that meeting.

The seeds of thought are germinating. Sooner or later all computers become obsolete. Possibly time to start thinking about replacing the mba. Another mba or the macbook. I’d love to get the mbp, it’ll be great for speed and power but too heavy. May be by next summer, see what 2016 refreshes are like.

 

apple watch sports

Super Low-Tech Apple Watches
super low-tech apple watches by flickr user hiné

I haven’t really paid a lot of attention to tha apple watch, apart from acknowledging that it’s out and people are wearing it. I’m still testing out the mi band that we wore to Europe and I’m waiting for my atlas which is a year late (long story).

I do wonder what it’s like to actually wear the apple watch. If I were to get one, I’d most likely get the sports version. There’s some good reviews from people who are serious about exercise on how it stacks up as a fitness tracker:

Part of the allure here is owning a single device that tells time, alerts you of notifications and triples as a fitness tracker.

It’s probably not advanced in its current form to use as anything other than a tracker of casual cardio exercise. If Six-to-Start get their act together and fix zombies, run it’ll be a great integration with the Watch.

Will I get it? No, not now. I’m not obsessed enough about the minute details of my exercising and I don’t care about notifications. Battery life isn’t good. There are a ton of competitors (like the aforementioned late Atlas and the really good Pebble time). I just can’t see the purpose of smartwatches.

mum’s new tech toys, ice cream

icecream5scoops

Spent most of the day setting up mum’s new ipad. Her old ipad (my original gen 1 ipad) didn’t have that many apps on it, so I thought it’s simpler to download new apps fresh from the app store. Ended up getting her new apps like bbc news, travel, tv guide, games, dictionary and the new flickr app. Since she uses yahoo, I got her the yahoo mail app instead of the native mail app. And since she thinks the google.com page is a browser (and I’ve given up trying to explain the difference between browser and webpage) I replaced safari with google app.

After setup, we went to the computer place to get a cover and screen protector. She took a liking to the girl who sold us the screen protector and after browsing around other stores, went back to the girl’s shop to get a cover.

While we were at it, I got her a mifit step/sleep tracker, it’s now even cheaper, more like USD15. I set up the mifit app for her on her phone, and told her to wear the band to bed. Let’s see how it tracks her sleep.

One good thing about all this setting up, I’m a little bit more familiar with android than before.

We met up with my dad at the food court near the computer place for dinner. For all my efforts today, I thought I deserved a little reward. There’s this ice cream stall that sells 5 scoops of ice cream for USD1.50, so the 3 of us got 5 scoops to share. Chocolate, chocolate banana, mint choc chip, tofu, sesame. The scoops are small, which we liked. In terms of taste not stunning but not bad either. Definitely good value and worth trying again.

iphone6

iphone4and6

It finally happened. The touchscreen on the iphone, or rather the left hand corner of the touchscreen, stopped working. I can’t type the letters e, s and merely touching a gives me a bunch of letters in the vicinity. Apps kept opening by themselves. The keypad doesn’t register, so at times I can’t unlock the phone. I left it overnight and it worked for about 1 minute before going haywire again.

It’s time to get a new iphone. I wasn’t planning on getting it this cycle, was hoping for another year or two. C’est la vie. I guess 4 years of constant use, being dropped multiple times and exposure to the elements are factors that led to the failure.

Debated between 6 or 6 plus. The 6 plus was too big to fit comfortably in pockets so 6 it is. I’m struck by the comparison in size between the 4 and 6.

Went to the messy computer mall to get screen protector and case. App and data transfer was easy, just restored from icloud. For some reason the camera roll didn’t transfer so I took the opportunity to clean it up by selectively restoring from dropbox. Spent 3 hours on software update though, a combination of slow internet and slow itunes.

iphone freak out

iphone4power

Excuse me while I have a fit. I was getting my haircut and happily exchanging stickers with mm when the iphone started acting stupid. Apps kept opening, I couldn’t bring up the keyboard and when I did, I couldn’t type. At one point, the keypad wasn’t working so I wasn’t even able to unlock the phone. I’d press one number but it either didn’t register or it’d register as 1. All in all, a complete mess.

I do not need this just a few days before the trip. I went to the phone shop and was this close to getting a new phone. The customer service person said may be it’s the screen protector. I took it off and it seemed to behave for a little bit. Will test for a couple of days.

steve jobs tribute 05-october

I cleaned out some old folders recently and found this video I took of the Chicago Apple Store in 2011; Steve Jobs died three years ago today.

It’s also really nice of Tim Cook to email apple staff with a tribute.

It just occured to me, how similar the tributes around Apple Stores around the world 3 years ago are to the message walls scattered all around #occupycentral protest sites this week.

SteveJobs8 oclp073msgwall
flickr / image on left via user morgan schmorgan, image on right is mine

Simple, elegant, heart-felt. That’s the power of a small post-it note and a pen. 

#2: new ipad

ipadmini2

Task #2 in 101 in 1001 is to get a new idevice. Originally I thought it’d be an iphone 6 or later, seeing that my iphone is 3 years old. Then my kindle stopped charging. Nothing wrong with the battery, I just wasn’t able to get the pin to connect to the jack, something inside seems to have shifted and no amount of wriggling or even turning the device upside down could get the parts to click together. It seems to be a common problem with many complaints and a repair that involves taking it apart and soldering the jack to the motherboard.

I could claim that the kindle problem is an excuse, but it isn’t really. I was always going to get an ipad mini, it was just a matter of time and which generation. I was gonna get it at Christmas but never got round to it. Now this is supposed to be an early birthday present from parents and sis. I paid for it myself, I’m sure they will reimburse me.

First order of business, make sure I have epub versions of my ebooks. I usually buy in epub format, even when I only had the kindle — I would just convert to azw in calibre. But it wasn’t as easy as just uploading the epubs into ibooks. I have to complain to publishers one of these days, there are 2 things I really hate that they do: a) what possess them to add tags to their books? If I want tags, I’ll add them myself. Plus having tags for “science fiction,” “sci-fi,” “sci fi,” “science fiction fantasy” and all the different permutations by different publishers is NOT helpful; and b) do they think I am stupid when they automatically give their books 5 stars?

The least said about the DRM on kindle books, the better. Hate. That’s why unfortunately I don’t have books by authors who are primarily only available at amazon.

The most time consuming part of setting up is to get the apps in. To stay consistent, the ipad has the same apps and the same layout as the iphone. There are a couple of apps that are iphone only, and of course there is no phone on the ipad. If there is an ipad version, I went through the trouble of downloading it.

So far, works like a dream. Reading is just as good, and it’s a lighter and thinner device so a plus. I have to start games from the beginning, which is a good thing, I like going back to level 1 on angry birds and making my way through the series.

iphone temptation

Last week we went to the apple store and got mm upgraded to the iphone 5s, from her iphone 3g. It’s really light and very sharp with the new case we found. My target upgrade is the iphone 6 or 6s, perhaps even 7 if my iphone lasts that long. The reason for waiting is I want to get an ipad mini first, and I’m not one of those recent apple converts who need to own every idevice.

That is, until I start spotting cool things and apps that are only compatible with iphone 5 or 5s.

This lightstrap cover is a new kickstarter project, and is basically a flash built into the case. A bit expensive though, and I don’t understand why the lower donation amount gives earlier access to the product.

nikeplusmoves

Like many people this Christmas, I’m on the hunt for an activity tracker, and was thinking of getting either a fitbit or a fuelband. The fitbits and newest fuelband sync through bluetooth, which requires iphone 4s, sigh. And the nike+ moves app, which doesn’t even need a band, needs the iphone 5s’ M7 processor.

Argh! May be I’ll just go to the sports store and get an old fashioned pedometer for the time being and stop thinking about iphone 5s stuff.

will i buy the ipad mini

ipadmini

Will I buy the ipad mini?

Please rephrase.

When will I buy the ipad mini?

Thought so.

Unless someone offers it to me for Christmas, I’ll save it for a special occasion. What special occasion? Not sure yet, I’ll leave it open for my own discretion.

I’ve had the kindle for a while now, and it’s been completely indispensable. I take it everywhere, but I don’t use it except for reading and games as I haven’t put many apps on it. Paid for angry birds (for the 3rd time, that’s an issue) but all other apps are free. An ipad mini will be even more perfect, if apple gets the multiple device app purchase issue sorted out.

Steve Jobs at Macworld Expo 1997

Yes, it’s 45mins long. Yes, Gil Amerio drones on for the first part. Be patient. Wait till 6:55, when Steve comes out on his return to Apple. The contents of his speech may be outdated (NT, Director, LaserWriter) and who remembers NeXT computers anymore but he was already talking about apps running on cross platforms. The conviction and charisma is there. Still compelling. I watched all the Steve bits and fast forwarded the Gil bits.

ipad 2 vs macbook air

ipadmba

I’m probably getting an ipad 2 next time I’m in the US. I gave my ipad to my niece and sometimes I miss it. I use the mba mostly at home but I think that it will more likely bridge the gap between the mba and the iphone. There’s a really interesting article from Business Insider on The Atlantic about how people really use the ipad. Usage has increased; almost 40% of respondents use it as their primary computer and over 70% use it to read books. Perhaps the one chart that I will use as justification is that over 70% of people think that ipads and macbook airs are not mutually exclusive.

iphone 4 fits into macbook air slot

iphone4mba

Some people have way too much time on their hands. Swedish designer Mattias Östergren noticed that the iphone 4 fits perfectly into the notch of the macbook air. I took my iphone out of its media hipster wannabe cover just to test this. May be a manufacturing efficiency, or magnetic displacement, or something cooler, or just a coincidence. It’s a trivial observation anyway.

writing instruments

timecapsule

I kinda want to start writing a little again, but need to get one of these first. Alright, I don’t need a time capsule to write, it’s just that I’ve set up the mba in the kitchen and the mbp stays on my desk and I thought I can make the study (ie use the mbp) as a writing area. The wifi isn’t that strong in the study so a time capsule as router plus an airport express as repeater will expand the network to the back of the apartment.

Did that sound like a lame babbly excuse to buy even more apple products?

macbook air

macbookproair

I spent the weekend setting up the macbook air, which I bought in Chicago and only unboxed this week. Unfortunately migration assistant didn’t work, and after spending hours and hours trying to fix it, I had to go with the more traditional manual method of backing up and restoring from an external hard disk. The one advantage here is that I can pick and choose which application to transfer over, so it’s like starting over again.

The painful part out of the way, I set about downloading firefox, adium and the rest. For the most part I could copy the existing setups and bookmarks from the library. Documents were straightforward to copy across, including Calibre e-books and the iphoto library; my itunes library is always on the external disk. Updating software took forever, not because of the machines but because of the pitiful virgin wifi speed.

The most obvious difference between the 2 macbooks is size. Compared with the thin, thin Air, the Pro looks like a Biggest Loser contestant. The 13” screen is smaller, but at the same resolution and way sharper so it doesn’t take me long to adapt. Do I want a bigger screen? Sure, but not at the expense of size. If I wanted a bigger screen, I would have stuck with the Pro. The keyboard will take some getting used to, it takes more energy to type, and each keystroke is accompanied by a click that isn’t so easy for touchtyping. This is my biggest complaint, plus that it isn’t a backlit keyboard.

It’s fast. Booted up by the time the apple logo came on at the Pro. Applications opened quickly, the finder navigation is an improvement.

Overall, I’m really liking it. It feels great and outperforms the Pro. It was time to get a new mac, and I think going with the Air was a good decision. For good measure, I updated both iphones so the new iphone4 is now fully functional.

iphone 4

iphone4

I blame the American practice of locking phones. It’s so alien and moronic and all the other words for stupid. My iphone has been stuck in airplane mode since December, and I’ve been using my blackberry. I worked out the costs. If I get an iphone 4 in HK, even with a plan that I’ll only use once or twice a year, it’s still cheaper to get it and then get a SIM only plan in the UK.

So that’s my new toy. Not synced yet cos I didn’t bring my external drive. Not bothered, I downloaded cover orange, it’ll tide me over till next week.

itoys

itoys2010

My itoys: ipod original, nano, classic, iphone, ipad.

Yes, I went and bought an ipad. The wifi version, not the 3G. This one is actually for Mum. I can’t get one for myself yet — it’s not compatible with Tiger so I have to either upgrade to snow leopard or get a new mbp first.

Anyway, look at how huge the original “cigarette case” ipod is, especially next to the nano. This one has a lot of memories for me. I bought it with mm’s sis, and in those days ipods were mac only. In a way, I’m glad apple opened it up to PCs, cos it shows that the revenue has gone into further research and design. Of course we’re all having to adjust to more people in the apple space nowadays.

macbook hotair

mba

There was a rumour that the macbook air might get refreshed this week, citing a source that was reliable in the past. And that the refresh may come as early as Tuesday. Well, Tuesday has come and gone and no announcement. Sigh. It seems more likely that any refresh will be later this year. According to ars, who spoke with intel,

low-power Arrandale-class processors “for the ultra-thin segment” are coming later this summer

I am very tempted to get an mba in addition to a new mbp (may be even an ipad) this year. Walking around London for 4hrs with the mbp, the e-reader, adaptors, wires and 3 books in my backpack was good training, but I can do weights at home and an mba would have made it feel less like hiking expedition. Big apple year this may end up being.

i touched an ipad

We were at best buy and I couldn’t help it. Played with an ipad for a bit. Yep, it’s just like a larger ipod touch. It’s still a bit too large for my liking. It can’t fit into my back pocket like the iphone, and it’s kinda too big and heavy to carry around. My maximum size tolerance is the ereader and it’s bigger.

Way cool though. No doubt I’ll get one eventually.

Will it blend? Looks like it does. I watched this with horror.

iSigh

ipadhero

Why I will buy it:

  • so pretty
  • just touch it
  • easy to use
  • better than b&w e-readers
  • apps!!
  • I can see it replacing the netbook
  • pretty, pretty, pretty

Why I won’t buy it (yet):

  • can’t multi-task
  • no flash
  • no webcam or camera
  • no usb, not even an sd card slot
  • adaptor isn’t magsafe, ie need yet another power supply set
  • additional 3G cost — unless there’s a bundle for iphone+ipad
  • it’s just a larger iphone / ipod touch, can’t take the place of the mbp
  • price will drop

24 hours with the iphone

iphonewall

I can’t get away with just yesterday’s one line post about the iphone right? Of course not.

So, i’ve had 24 hours with it, is there anything new I can add to the millions of words already out there about the device? No, not really. All I want to do is add this: SQUEEEEEEEE!!!

In a way, I feel like I have 2 years of catching up to do. That I couldn’t be a part of the early adopter crowd, or the 3G excitement last year, only to partake vicariously. But, c’est la vie, I wasn’t living in the correct part of the world. Then again, I am glad that this is my first, that I won’t be holding onto a 2G or a 3G and wishing I can get a 3GS.

Early impressions:
pros — fast, fast, fast. apps. easy to use. easy to sync. apps. beautiful. great functionality (see that apps wall at WWDC this year?)
cons — my fingerprints are all over the screen! luckily i have one of those sticky protectors. and it’s a bit big for my pockets, especially when wearing work clothes, i probably need to get a holster.

Basically, I can see why Apple sold 1 million in the first weekend. I know i’m guilty of disdain / contempt at people who’ve recently jumped on the Apple bandwagon — that i’m no longer the anomaly with the cool computer — i guess it’s either swallow my pride and be one of the masses or get on another train. I suppose I could have gone the Gina Trapani Android route, if it were any manufacturer but Apple i may have. As it is, I’m seeing a long and mutually enjoyable relationship with my iphone(s). And I haven’t even been tempted to jailbreak it yet.

iPhone 3GS

iphone3gs

I was following the liveblog of the WWDC keynote. Price reduction on mbp! Snow Leopard out in a few months! All very exciting. But of course everyone was waiting for iPhone news. That there’d be a 32GB model, compass, video, cut & paste, new OS…it’s all been leaked already. But it’s still nice to have it confirmed. Now the question is, how soon after 19 June can I wait?

mac netbook rumours

Seeing that there seems to be more, more, more and even more rumours of a mac netbook, I’ll hold off getting an mba this year. May be upgrade to the new mbp, but I still need a smaller machine.
ars talked about why apple will or will not bring out a netbook. There are cases for an apple netbook: it’s all the rage, and there’s too many rumours and “we’re not doing it” statements…and we all know about these statements. OTOH a netbook means stripped down functionality, which apple doesn’t go for. Besides, it’s arguable that the iphone is a good netbook-quality small computer already.

new iTunes

I bought a new external hd, a small 320gb one for travelling. It transferred the mp3s alright, but when I opened up itunes somehow it was still wanting to locate the files at the old drive. So I did something drastic and deleted the whole library (keeping the files of course). What i forgot was to take a copy of the library database file, so i lost all my playlists and more importantly, play count, import date and ratings — the soft data so to speak. Sigh.

I guess it’s no big deal, some of the playlists date back to my first ipod, and are ratings really that important? I’ll just treat it as a new beginning.

At least it’s good news that drm is coming off itunes soon.

ipod nano

ipodnano

I just kinda decided, spur of the moment, to get an ipod nano. I’ll probably still end up getting the iphone, but the nano will be useful for travelling and running.

I got the 16GB black one (what else). Now that my iTunes library is over 50GB I have to be selective, so I spent this morning sorting songs and moving to a nano playlist for copying. It’s easy.

I also created a playlist for running: 60 favourite songs, rated at least 4 stars. And I did take it out running. And it did make the running easier and more enjoyable. Nice.

apple store

My first experience at an Apple Store.

My colleague wanted to buy a mbp for her friend, and I went along to offer support. We found a nice sales associate who punched in the order in a macbook. There were some small specs including bumping the RAM to 4GB and installing iWorks. Seemed to us very straightforward.

Until we were told to come back in 3 hours to pick it up.

What?

3 hours? It doesn’t take that long, surely.

I bumped my RAM to 2GB (max), and they wanted to take an hour to do it. Again, what?

But we had no choice, so we came back. My overall impression of the Apple Store? Lots of nice young sales people, how indoctrinated they are about the Apple culture I’m not sure. I guess they know their products but they seem more like shop assistants than mac geeks, you know?